Thursday, January 24, 2013

Riverside Drive Strategic Plan Hiring Process Underway

The City of Asheville has  released an RFQ to obtain planning services to develop a community supported Strategic Redevelopment Plan for a section of Riverside Drive in the River Arts District.  Visit  http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/Purchasing/RequestsforBidsProposals.aspx
And scroll down to RFQ 298 to view the full document.  We are requesting this be advertised locally through the AIA Asheville and Design Center, as well as being available through the City’s Website. It will be advertised  on a state wide basis (at minimum) through the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association, and nationally by the Planetizen website.  This opportunity closes on January 25, 2013.

SUMMARY OF THE STRATEGIC PLAN TO BE DEVELOPED:
The project objective is to produce a plan that develops, integrates and synthesizes:
• A re-use strategy and urban design concept for the City-owned 14 Riverside Drive (aka
the PSNC) building, which is currently vacant and in disrepair;
• A redevelopment feasibility analysis (RFA) and recommended strategy for selected
City-owned economic development property to the east of the proposed realignment of
Riverside Drive that will occur on account of the River Arts District Transportation
Improvement Project (RADTIP).
• An open space concept plan (OSC) and recommended strategy for City-owned green   
space to the west of the proposed realignment of Riverside Drive that will occur on
account of the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP).
• An appendix of issues, projects and concerns identified by the consultant, the City and
the community, that reside outside the scope of work of this project but that need
further consideration.
The recommended strategies developed as a result of these activities must aim to transform
this area’s underperforming features into assets of regional significance.

Special attention shall be given to strategies that strengthen the district as a place that supports arts and culture, that feature sustainable riverfront redevelopment practices, and provide a high return on investment for the community.
  
Call me with questions,

Stephanie Monson Dahl,  AICP
Riverfront Redevelopment Coordinator and Urban Planner for Economic Development
City of Asheville, North Carolina
(828) 232 4502 office
(828) 337 4111 mobile

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

City Council Approves New Belgium Site Conditions

Last night, City Council voted unanimously to move forward with New Belgium's proposed brewery on Craven Street.  In addition, City Council also approved related bike and pedestrian improvements to Haywood Road as well as a feasibility study to explore using Riverside North as a preferred truck route to and from the facility.  Next steps will likely include studying how the turning radius at the Craven/Riverside intersection can be improved as well as increasing the clearance of the road at the Norfolk Southern Railroad trestle on Riverside Drive. Read more about this.

Below is a statement that was read to City Council last night on behalf of WECAN:


January 21, 2013
Dear City Council and the Honorable Mayor Bellamy,
As you are planning to vote on the New Belgium brewery project, please consider the perspective of the West End/ Clingman Avenue Neighborhood (WECAN).  WECAN sees our future quality of life tied together with our surrounding neighborhoods, and would like to take this opportunity to address the impacts of this project.
WECAN is primarily interested in seeing our neighborhood develop as laid out in our Master Plan, including more affordable infill development, safer pedestrian access and routes, multimodal transit, and ecological restoration enhancing the public experience.  The recent upgrades along Clingman Avenue is one example of this, with the City and NCDOT responding to the requests of a neighborhood to improve a major thoroughfare with traffic calming devices, better signage, bike lanes, sidewalks and adequate lighting.  Whether through improved safety & wellness, or reduced household transportation costs, infrastructure can improve quality of life. We would like to see City resources continue to be used to enhance the economic vitality of neighborhoods through a diverse mix of property and transportation uses.  
We appreciate New Belgium’s interest in a centrally located site, adjacent to the French Broad River.  Our neighborhood was established when the cotton mills built housing for its workers, creating an early sustainable community in the heart of Asheville. The creation of new jobs in the middle of Asheville’s residential core that will be accessible through multiple modes of transit is a huge benefit to our community and the city.  While many residents are excited about the potential of this project, many others are quite concerned about the unknown impacts including, but not limited to the scale of the facility, increased traffic, odor issues, and noise.
We believe this is an opportunity to address existing deficiencies in infrastructure that will only be magnified by the increased traffic to the New Belgium Brewery due to truck, employee, and visitor traffic.   We recognize that in order to enable additional job growth in our neighborhood, including the River Arts District, ease of access for freight vehicles (Riverside Dr, Hazel Mill Rd, etc.) needs to be resolved.   In addition, Haywood Rd. and Clingman Ave. will see increased traffic volumes, whether from visitors or from business operations.  We seek a commitment from NCDOT and the City to prioritize developing Haywood Road as a complement to Clingman Ave, serving as a continuous multimodal, mixed-use corridor as laid out in the Haywood Road Corridor Plan. This includes but is not limited to complete street planning: slow speeds, beautification through design and landscaping, pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities, and narrow travel lanes.  Inevitably, we recognize that large freight vehicles may use these corridors; a corridor design that promotes safety on shared roads in a residential area will promote successful economic development and strengthen neighborhoods.
We support the city staff’s recommendation to Council, with the following adjustments.
1.     Broaden the language to complete a feasibility study that identifies how to provide freight vehicle access to I-240 in the shortest route possible without crossing through neighborhood corridors.  This includes more due diligence and communication about the feasibility of the Riverside north route, including prioritizing improvements to the Craven Street Bridge in the RADTIP funding to enable truck turning.
2.     If and when changes are made to the Craven/Riverside intersection, we ask that utmost importance is placed on improving pedestrian and bicycle safety, including improving the connection to and from Roberts Street.
3.     Fund a shovel ready design for the Haywood Rd. corridor to make it multimodal and effective as a mixed-use neighborhood as laid out in the Haywood Rd. Corridor Plan. This design and construction should continue through Beacham’s curve to I-240, whether using city funds, or French Broad River MPO funds (either through amending the TIP or using STP-DA funds).
4.     Changing Clingman Extension and Roberts Street to one way is not a priority for the neighborhood and we do not currently see the need for it if this area will not be seeing increased truck traffic.  While we have no problem with studying this option, we would like to have more feedback and discussion with our community if this study moves forward.
5.     Finally, we ask the city to consider new approaches to understanding and communicating with impacted neighborhoods earlier in the process as other projects such as New Belgium come to the table. 
In conclusion, WECAN welcomes New Belgium to our neighborhood, and it is clear they take being part of the community very seriously.  We are grateful for the extensive efforts they are making to ensure open communication, solve problems creatively, and generate high quality jobs for those who need them.  We also appreciate the time, effort, and sensitivity the City has put forth to be responsive to neighborhood concerns. We look forward to proactive and increased collaboration among all parties as this project moves forward and others come down the line, in order to create healthy, prosperous, and truly sustainable neighborhoods.
Sincerely, 
West End / Clingman Avenue Neighborhood (WECAN)

Friday, January 11, 2013

MLK Day Tree Planting @ Pisgah View

MLK Day of Service at the Pisgah View Peace Garden

In honor of MLK Day on Saturday, Januaray 21, 2013, Asheville Greenworks is partnering with the Pisgah View Apartments Peace Garden and Green Opportunities to plant an additional 50 food bearing trees and shrubs. If you are interested in participating in this meaningful, and fun project, the more, the merrier!  Short planting tutorial @ 1pm and then we'll get the trees in the ground.

RSVP to Rachel at 254-1776 or Rachel@ashevillegreenworks.org.





Wednesday, January 9, 2013

City to Demolish Ice House

Last night, City Council voted to demolish the Ice House on Riverside Drive with an intention to preserve the brick chimney.  Below is a statement from WECAN that was read at the meeting:


January 8, 2013

Honorable Terry Bellamy, Mayor of Asheville

Asheville City Council

Gary Jackson, Asheville City Manager

Stephanie Monson, COA Riverfront Redevelopment Coordinator and Urban Planner for Economic           Development



Dear City Council,

We are writing this letter in regards to the future of the Ice House property on Riverside Drive.  First of all, we would again like to acknowledge our appreciation to the City of Asheville for the efforts it has taken to address the numerous problems at the site.  While the building is still not fully secured, action has been taken and the situation has improved.  Additionally, the City has been in open communication and dialogue with us about permanent solutions to address the public safety problems as well as the long-term possibilities for the site. 

Within our neighborhood, there are varying opinions about the future of the Ice House.  Most people support the demolition of the building, acknowledging that this process began many years ago through neglect. Others feel that it should not be demolished and we are repeating past failures of vision and political will to preserve a special piece of history.  Yet, there is a broad feeling of concern about the public’s safety in and around the building as well as the loss of history that has already taken place through neglect, and that may yet still take place through demolition.  Because there wasn’t a greater effort put forward years ago by the property owners, the City of Asheville and the community to better secure, protect and envision a new future for this historical asset, we are now left with few options, with demolition being the easiest path.

Beyond the Ice House, many WECAN residents are concerned about the continuing loss and deterioration of significant historic structures in our neighborhood.  We hope that a renewed effort can be harnessed between a range of public, private, and civic partners to create the vision and funding to give new life to these structures before we are, once again, faced with demolition as a seemingly reasonable solution.  Additionally, since this numerous people were using this building as shelter, it is a reminder that we still have much work to do to eliminate homelessness and solve the problems that communities such as ours face as a result of the many people who cannot, will not, or are unable to find permanent housing.

If City Council decides to move forward with the demolition of the Ice House, WECAN would like to recommend that it proceed under the following conditions:

·       Every effort is made to preserve and save any existing significant historical elements of the building including but not limited to, the large brick chimney, any old remaining machinery and other contributing elements so as to leave remnants of the building for future reference. 

·       Once the building is demolished, we would like to see a kiosk or informational display that references historical information about the history of the site and the building.

·       City Council require the demolition contractor (Taylor and Murphy or whomever is selected) to have at least one employee working on the demolition, who resides in one of the surrounding neighborhoods (WECAN, Hillcrest, West Riverside, East-West Asheville Neighborhood, South French Broad, Southside, etc) and to work with Green Opportunities to ensure this occurs.

·       The City should remain in constant and open dialogue with the public and surrounding neighborhood about the future development possibilities of the Ice House, and consider how this site and those around it can engage and create productive public spaces that reference the exceptional history of the riverfront area and surrounding residential community, while also providing a place for a range of people and incomes to work, play, and live. 

We appreciate the City’s leadership on this issue and look forward to this site becoming a significant community asset. 



Sincerely,

West End / Clingman Avenue Neighborhood (WECAN)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

WECAN Jan 03, 2013 Board Meeting Minutes (Draft)

WECAN Board Meeting January 3,2013 at 64 Clingman Ave.

Board Members Present were:  Jeff Carnivale, Joe Fioccola, AnnaBeth Hardcastle, Yuri Koslen, Rachel Larson, Luke Perry and Pattiy Torno. (She agreed to serve!).
Board Members not present were Byron Ballard, Jessie Nell Coleman, Tom Gibson, Mike Kenton JoAnn Skinner and Suzanne Willis.
Also present were:  CRO Evan Coward, CRO Tyler Radford, Mike Sule and Addy Wygmans,

Luke officially called the meeting to order at 6:35 p.m. with a round of introductions and recalling something interesting or unusual over the holidays.

THE MINUTES
were approved with the following corrections: Luke will 'TRY TO'  (present a graphic flow chart)...and the following paragraph edited by Steph Monson:
ICE HOUSE: Lt Crawford gave an overview of the Ice House Property at 91 Riverside Dr. A joint effort of several city departments resulted in the city’s acquisition of the property last Friday. Steph reported that an order of demolition which was on the last City Council Agenda has been removed and rescheduled for January. Comments on the impact of a demolition to the district were collected at a River District Design Review Committee meeting. A diverse range of opinions were presented from Safety: ‘people first’ to ‘it is the most important building and needs to be preserved.’ AB Preservation Society and the NC State Historic Preservation Office say it promotes visual harmony and historic integrity of the Riverside Industrial Historic District.  So demolition has been removed from consideration until additional due diligence has been completed. The current process consists of developing a menu of options, legal analysis with fiscal, environmental, political and economic impacts to City Council by the end of December and reconsider the demolition issue in January. Additional meetings are scheduled for the coming weeks to develop a public safety plan which includes increased patrols of the ice house as well as other vacant buildings in the district. The building is still not completely physically secure but the squatters have been removed, at least once and City staff have put up additional boards and tape at the site.  Lt Crawford said progress is slow  but in the right direction and the police goal is safety not necessarily preservation or demolition.  Canvassing of council members has been going on. Public input is welcomed at the Council meeting. Formal letters from organized groups are effective. Council can  receive comments by snail mail, email, and in person in advance of the meeting. The project has caused the city to look at vacant buildings and review the state statutes, codes and ordinances to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with these issues city-wide. The law enforcement process of dealing with vacant structures is complaint driven but responsive to criminal and public safety issues. We will see what can be done in the next 60 days. Luke thanked all the city departments for their efforts in this matter.

NOTE: due to sensitivity of this and other issues, future minutes will be published as DRAFT minutes until they are approved and corrected by the board.

APD CRO UPDATE:  Ice House increased patrols have been noticed and appreciated. Increased patrols at the dead end of Jefferson have also been noticed thanks to the enthusiastic new officers recently released to solo status. More homeless camps have been noticed with campfires south of the Riverlink bridge on the west bank. "Open Burning" is permitted by the fire department (literally--they issue permits) and is allowed on days designated by Air Pollution Control as 'open burn days' before 3 p.m. Contained burns such as fire pits or steel barrels do not require permits. Luke reported a break in on Club Street with a description of two possible suspects who have not been seen since. Evan encouraged neighbors to call in any suspicious activity or unusual people in the neighborhood. Officers will respond and at least get their names on record. A Community meeting on Tuesday January 15th  from 6-7:30 at the Housing Authority Board Room at 165 South French Broad Ave will be held with Aston Park neighbors, SFB and WECAN and the new police department Housing Units. Yuri expressed a need for there to be a place where it is legal for homeless people to camp outside and avoid the restrictions placed by the nearby homeless shelters. Pattiy noted that if campers were responsible and cleaned up after themselves it might be different. Luke said he would invite Heather Millstein with the Homeless Coalition to come to a future meeting to converse on these issues.  

TREASURERS REPORT: AnnaBeth noted a donation by Joe and Byron and will have a complete treasurers report for the next meeting .

ONGOING UNRESOLVED ISSUES
: Luke mentioned the following to keep them on our radar:
    Clingman Hilliard Ped Heads: Bids have been received, contractors contacted and waiting on contracts.
    Clingman Speeding: problem backing out of driveways safely--possible solution convex mirrors?
    Roberts Street Traffic Calming: no progress on sidewalks from circle to White Duck.
    Pedestrian bridge fencing and railing: somewhere between the city and DOT no progress yet. 
    Greenworks pedestrian bridge landscaping/maintenance: no progress.
    Kiosk Permit: Still not issued. Parks and Recreation was supposed to pay for it.
    Pattiy reported that RADBA was asking for parking space striping and bulb outs on Roberts Street between the circle and the five points.

BLOCK JESSIE UPDATE: Luke brought up the pre-Christmas house fire at Sven and Melissa's at 11 Park Avenue. There was minor structural damage, a lot of smoke damage and Sven was severely burned. A collection from those present raised $100 as a gesture of neighborliness. AnnaBeth will remit to them. Yuri made  a resolution to get the Block Jessies actively going in 2013.

ICE HOUSE DISCUSSION: The decision to demolish the Ice House will go before City Council on Tuesday January 8th at 5 p.m. Staff is recommending it be demolished and be replaced with a surface parking lot.

There appeared to be a need for overflow parking in the area for Jean Webb Park , for river access and the concerts that were held there last summer. There is also an opportunity for a pedestrian walkway from the Curve Studios north almost to the Railside Studios. Pattiy reported that the River District Design Review Committee considered the demolition issue and did not come forth with a formal recommendation but there was enough discussion to suggest a reconsideration. One proposal was to install a museum (estimated cost $86 million.) Any suggestion will come with a price tag and funding that will be a challenge with several capitol campaigns currently in the works. RADBA and RADA are sending letters of support for the demolition but retaining the smoke stack as an icon with special lighting. However, since "to be lit is must be a designated landmark" (whatever that means legally) no one knows if is structurally sound enough to withstand the nearby demolition. Pattiy noted that the entire district is on the National Register of Historic Places. Other considerations discussed included: could the graffiti be preserved? since there are two ground levels and a wall surface would remain could it be used  for graffiti? (Whatever the artistic value may be, Joe expressed resistance to encouraging graffiti anywhere since the allowed graffiti at the Chesterfield Mill site spilled over to other buildings and structures in the neighborhood.)  Is the chimney a home to swifts? Is that an endangered species angle? Could the machinery be preserved? (Evan noted that there is minimal machinery left.) Rachel referred to the Seattle Gas Works Park where machinery was made safe after the building was removed. Will there be Historic markers to tell the story of the industrial development in the area? The question of the remnants of the Asheville Cotton Mill which also has a smoke stack and does have some machinery and which Riverlink has owned since 1995 and has no plans for other than holding the site for a future unknown large project. Luke volunteered to draft two letters one in support of the Ice House and the one about the Cotton Mill.

NEW BELGIUM: Luke reported on the Planning and Zoning Meeting on Wednesday which included Craven Street improvements and the whole project. EWANA  expressed concerns about truck traffic on Haywood Rd. After four hours of discussion they settled on two conditions: one that 70% of truck traffic not use Haywood Road but use alternate routes. Second that yearly traffic counts be done to determine if other changes are called for. Luke expressed concern for the Roberts St alternate route. Luke asked for feedback to take to Council for their January 22nd meeting. Pattiy noted that even though EWANA wants to keep truck traffic off Haywood Road the West Asheville Business Association wants the traffic. Luke mentioned that for a southbound alternate route through Roberts Street at the NB Meeting Thursday morning it was suggested to make Clingman Extension and Roberts Street one way around the Grey Eagle.  Pros include a wider lane, both sides parking and bicycle lanes. Cons include turning radii. Consideration of the northbound route focused on the height of the Riverside Drive Rail Road Trestle. Problems noted are that it is too low for the height of the trucks needed and the turning radius from the Smith Bridge to Riverside is not big enough to accommodate the larger trucks. The turning radius issue is being considered by the RADTIP plan. The Trestle appears to be the holy grail of solutions. The possible solutions include: to lower the road, to replace the trestle to increase the opening and/or raise the tracks, use smaller trucks, and pave over the spur over the east side of the trestle. Each of these presents obstacles but each also deserves to be compared with the others in terms of cost and benefits. At the NBB meeting it was noted that city staff has not been in contact with the railroad, but anecdotally that the Riverside Trestle may bes on the Railroad's maintenance list to be repaired or replaced. Pattiy countered that RADTIP had recently been in contact with the railroad and they were adamant that they would not alter or replace the trestle. Mike cited the Haywood Corridor Study which noted current problems such as inability for handicapped to reach crosswalk buttons, no bicycle lanes, etc. He noted  that it's not just trucks it is also infrastructure. As far as DOT is concerned two traffic signals and painting 'share the road' is all they have committed to but there is a feeling that there is a fleeting opportunity to get more infrastructure such as bike lanes, parking, sidewalks, bus stops, etc to accommodate trucks, pedestrians and bicyclists.  Truck traffic is coming and will continue to increase. This could be a win-win for true multi-modal transportation which is a stated but apparently low priority goal of the NC DOT. WECAN and EWANA both want what's best and doesn't want to simply shift the problem to another neighborhood. It is not known if they realize that shifting truck traffic will also lower the possibility of getting the infrastructure improvements that would enhance the Haywood Road corridor.  Luke suggested that the northbound route has to be ruled out first. The advantages that recommend it are that it is the closest route to an interstate and to all directions and it would not pass through any residential area and therefore have the least impact on any neighborhood traffic. That said, it would also reduce the opportunity for infrastructure improvements through neighborhoods. Mike also noted that the issue of truck traffic should be considered separately from New Belgium visitor traffic for those reasons and that the Chamber could get involved with the tourist routing issue. Pattiy noted there is a lot of passion about the issue and it should be tempered with facts.  Rachel and Yuri will draft a paragraph or two about our discussion and the need to do due diligence and consider every obstacle to the north bound route before it is ruled out and distribute it for review and comment.

ELECTION OF OFFICERS: Yuri nominated the slate of officers as follows: Luke as Chair, Rachel as Vice Chair, Anna Beth as Treasurer and Joe as Secretary. Motion passed unanimously.

MASTER PLANNING: Next meeting at AnnaBeth's at 26 Jefferson Dr on January 17th at 7 p.m.
For next meeting: Garden Club Work Days Needed.
Upcoming Events: 'Hard to Recycle' Event Saturday January 12th 11 a.m.-3 p.m. At Aarons (Park Terrace Center)-1298 Patton Avenue.
Thanks to Luke and Rachel for shortbread cookies, chocolates and toffees.
The meeting adjourned at 8:35 p.m.
DRAFT Minutes submitted by Joe Fioccola.